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Stamp News    July  2010 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Usage, with attitude

The collecting disciplines of Stamp Usage and Postal History are not mutually exclusive. Occasionally one comes across items which are equally at home in a collection of either of these disciplines. I've recently sorted a huge accumulation of Australian taxed and/or undeliverable covers, amongst which surfaced the subjects featured this month. These items are at the interface of usage and postal history, although I rate them as more valuable to a usage collection, some albeit with a degree of "attitude". I'll endeavour to explain why I would opt to include these items in a usage, rather than postal history collection.

                                  Figure 1. Humble example of Philately as Art

Most readers will have seen the ubiquitous "pointing hand" handstamp, associated with unclaimed and returned to sender mail (one is shown as Figure 1). This marking was in use at many Post Offices by 1911, and later all but the smallest of P.O.'s counted such a device amongst their inventory of postal "instruments". The diversity of types of this particular handstamp is extraordinary, and one could form an interesting collection of those used in a particular State, if not the entire Commonwealth. Amongst the bewildering array I've recently handled, I noted male left hands, male right hands, anatomically challenged hands, but only one female hand! Our subject is a male left hand, uncommonly struck in red at Adelaide's Dead Letter Office, rather than the more usual black or violet inks. For my taste, this delivers an attractive usage item for the ber common 1942 KGVI 2d scarlet. The stamp, manuscript "REDIRECTION EXPIRED" (the reason for undeliverable status), and the two handstamped markings being uniformly in red, provide a nice little Philately as Art item. Value : $35 (off cover this stamp, and the others featured this month, are next to worthless).

           Figure 2. Ancillary markings add attitude to already scarce solo franking

The "small" 1/- Lyrebird is not easy to find as a solo franking. The airmail rate to Ceylon from 1947-52 was 1/-, but by 19 May 1953, when Figure 2 was posted, the rate had increased to 1/3d. The item was seeking a passenger in transit on Orient Line S.S. "Otranto". This did not eventuate, and a range of tax/unclaimed markings were applied at Colombo, to add to the South Australian circular "T/18/CTS" tax marking (1d = 3 gold centimes, 6d representing underpaid 3d + 3d double deficiency fine gives us the "18" tax amount), and N.S.W. Dead Letter Office handstamps, and the article was subsequently returned to sender in Salisbury. The juxtaposition of scarce franking, destination and postal markings deliver an item which would find a welcome home in either of a usage or postal history collection. If the franking was a combination of various stamp issues for the aggregate 1/-, I would place this in a p.h. collection. Being a scarce stamp as a solo franking, with added character provided by a diversity of ancillary markings, I would opt to place it in a usage collection. Value : $100.

         Figure 3. Se-tenant pairs of 1950s Commems always desirable usage items

No dilemma in determining where I would place Figure 3. Usage items of the four 1950-51 and 1953 se-tenant issues are so scarce as to make their inclusion in any form paramount in a usage collection. The Sydney tax marking is not particularly scarce, but adds to the interest of this as a usage item. The airmail rate within Australia had increased from 6d to 6d on 9 July 1951, hence the "1d" manuscript insertion in tax handstamp (d double deficiency = 1d). This would make a nice exhibit page accompanied by a pre-9 July 1951 usage of a pair for the then current 6d airmail rate. Value : $60.

                 Figure 4. Informative marking adds zest to otherwise dull franking

Rather similar to the 2d stamp featuring her father, his Highness KGVI (see Figure 1), the QEII 3d of 1953 is another challenging stamp for which to locate an attractive usage item. One could seek out a colourful advertising cover, or along might come Figure 4. This would be my preferred solo franking in a usage exhibit, where the 3d has inadvertently been placed alone on a registered article, for which 1/0d was the correct rate. The deficiency has been duly noted by an alert staff member at Adelaide, who has conveniently placed a nice strike of the elusive, and highly prized by we Philatelists, informative marking which we see so prominently featured . The deficiency of 9d, and presumably a fine of the same amount, would have been collected from the sender. Value : $60.

                  Figure 5. Same problem as previous item, P.O. staff not as alert

The perfect companion on an exhibit page for Figure 5 would be an item bearing the same stamp and the informative marking shown in Figure 4. In this instance the solitary 4d has been allowed to suffice for registered post, whereas the rate should have been 4d Letter rate + 1/3d Registration fee = 1/7d (the two rates increased on 1st Oct 1956). Clearly, Broadford P.O. staff were asleep at the wheel on 1 May 1958, when this item was processed. Nor can a lot be said for those who subsequently handled the article at Melbourne. Underpaid and undetected registered articles are rare, particularly to the extent that the entire registration fee has been overlooked, and a delight to usage and postal history specialists. Value : $50.

                                      Figure 6. Invalid use of SD stamp in 1968       

The 6d Banded Anteater is a scarce stamp as a solo franking. One occasionally sees it used on Radio Australia airmail greetings cards to S.E. Asia, and from Defence Forces serving in Malaysia. Figure 6 is a novel commercial use at Eltham (Vic) in Sep 1968, where the sender has affixed the stamp for correct equivalent of 5c for a letter. Problem was SD stamps ceased to be valid for postage from 14 Feb 1968, two years after introduction of Decimal currency. Accordingly, the article was taxed 10c, double the 5c deficiency. Value : $75.

                   Figure 7. Took a while for me to locate a taxed solo 2c Floral coil

The 1971 2c Floral coil was a make-up denomination, and is most often encountered in combination with the 5c of the series, during the 7c Letter rate regime. Solo frankings are, unsurprisingly, rare. I've noted just three, Figure 7 being the first detected by P.O. staff, and taxed. A late albeit commercial use in 1984, the taxed amount of 50c represents a 28c underpayment of the 30c Letter rate, plus a 22c service fee. This, and one of the untaxed 2c solo covers, would make a nice page in a usage exhibit. The tax marking shown here, and in Figures 9, 11 and 12, are not scarce, unlike the stamps as solo frankings, hence usage importance far exceeds postal history value. Value : $80.

                               Figure 8. Special usage item for 4c Mauve stinger

Figure 8 is an underpaid 1978 item from Gundagai to Cootamundra; the Letter rate had increased from 18c to 20c on 1 Jul 1978, over a week before the item was posted. At Cootamundra the 2c shortfall has been detected, and a double deficiency 4c tax marking applied, the handstamp at left indicating that a card was issued to the addressee requesting payment of the tax. All very proper procedure, and when delivery of the item took place the 4c Mauve stinger has been affixed and tied to indicate payment. A scarce, specific use of the 4c stamp as a "Postage due". Value : $60.

                                        Figure 9. Another elusive solo franking

The 5c from the 1976 Australian Scenes series is very scarce as a solo franking. I've noted a small number used c1978 for Defence Forces concessional airmail, which are very desirable items. Figure 9 is the first solo seen for another reason; underpayment of the 20c Letter rate in 1979. The tax marking denominated at 21c represents the 15c deficiency, plus a 6c service fee. Value : $80.

                           Figure 10. Attractive usage for common solo franking

Post Office markings can add substance to otherwise ordinary covers, as in Figure 10. Here the ber common 22c from the attractive 1978-84 Australian Birds series, a Letter rate denomination, is greatly enhanced by four P.O. informative markings, relating to undeliverable status of the article. Value : $15.

                   Figure 11. Attempt at 1c postage during 37c letter rate regime

The 1c denomination from the 1982-88 Reptiles and Amphibians definitive's is usually found uprating 36c PSE's following the Letter rate rise to 37c. Figure 11 is the first solo franking I've noted, a significant underpayment for the 37c rate. The article has been taxed a whopping 82c, representing 37c postage plus a service fee, more a fine, of 45c. Given that 1c had been paid, the taxed amount should have been 81c, and in fact one can see that the "2" in "82" has been altered from "1". The P.O. clerk who effected the taxing action must have considered the 1c franking deserved no recognition whatsoever. Value : $75.

                        Figure 12. "Holy grail" for Living Together usage exhibit?

The 1988 Living Together series rightly is very popular amongst usage collectors. It's very attractive in terms of designs, and the often odd denominations provide plenty of scope for rate study. Some denominations are very scarce as solo frankings, and Figure 12 can unquestionably be regarded as rare. It's another first noted by me. Has any collector a complete set of solo frankings of this series for every denomination from 1c to $1? A far greater collecting challenge than is a set of mint Kangaroos by watermark, I'll suggest. The sender of the subject cover has omitted to affix a 40c to make up the 41c Letter rate, and that oversight has culminated in a taxing of 95c, representing the 40c shortfall plus fine of 55c. Fines escalated in their extent during the 1990s. Value : $100.

A new on-line monthly auction, specializing in Usage material, Postal History, and Postal Stationery is about to make its appearance. Initially, Australia and related will feature, but gradually the scope will expand to embrace Australia and World. Full details next month.

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited    nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.